Thursday, November 13, 2008

New York.../Chicago?

Sunday morning at 5:00 I flew to New York for an open house & preliminary interview at HUC. The flights were fairly uneventful as I slept the entire time and didn't get stranded overnight. Upon arrival at Laguardia, wily Jew that I am, I took a shared shuttle van into Manhattan at a fraction of the cost for a cab. What I didn't anticipate was waiting an hour for it to show up, being crammed in with 9 other passengers and having a driver who verged on abusive. He was like one of those psychotically-protective/abusive husbands you see on Maury that can just snap at a moment's notice. Everyone in the van was soft-spoken, extreeeeeeemely white and most were over 70. These factors made getting yelled at collectively by the driver almost comical. We developed this group mentality of survival, comforting each other in extremely hushed whispers when someone would get the verbal smack down and when one of us would reach their destination, we'd all smile, as if to say, "You survived! Huzzah!" and they would return the smile, meaning, "This, too, shall pass."

Finally, at the 2 hour mark, I got out of the van and cabbed the rest of the way. The $11.50 was well spent to get off of the Hell-mobile and it got me to the door of HUC just as the meet & greet (with snacks!) was beginning. We were given a tour of the school, dinner and an exercise in interpreting Jewish law, which left me more than a little bewildered ("I just want to SING," he said). There was an evening prayer service that got me all choked up, perhaps due to all these people being moved by the same (or at least a similar) spirit and looking really happy about it. I felt like a kid who was allowed into his older brother's tree house for the first time and didn't really know how to react. Though certainly not intentional, it was ironically isolating. I went home that night feeling incredibly confused about the whole day, with more questions than I'd had before.

The school had matched me up with a current student for a home stay, a third year student living in Brooklyn. Also staying with her was a 19 year old from Phillie who was, well, 19, and we all know how well I do with 19 year-olds. What is it about teenagers that fuels them to try to impress their elders with knowledge? First of all, we know more than you and secondly, a lot of times the info you're trying to impress us with is wrong. Epic fail: adolescence. He had me up past midnight watch Daily Show clips on my laptop. Ach, well, look...

The following day was significantly better. After a day of sitting in on classes, talking with current students, personal meetings with admissions staff and a kick ass salad lunch, I was much more at ease. The thing that really impressed me is how much the faculty really wants success for their students. The hoops that are presented for jumping are not put in place to intimidate but rather as a means to develop necessary skills. Novel concept, no? I'm still a little wary of the Kumbaya-esque element of the services, but I'll either get on board or learn to adapt. In the end, I got the green light to go ahead and apply, which is why I went in the first place, so yay. I also talked to the most adorable lad who gave reeeeeeeeally good eye contact (holding a gaze is up there with oysters on the aphrodisiac scale) and also gave me this secret handshake in which the index finger is extended during the grip. I remember learning this one but I can't remember for the life of me if it was a Jewish thing or a gay thing. Given the venue, I should probably opt for the former, but damn, pretty eyes.

That night, my host and I grabbed some Thai for dinner and had a great time talking about the school, Judaism, personal history. It's so delightful to connect with someone when in this kind of completely isolated environment. This conversation really added to the good vibes I'd caught at the school that day and that this was very much a Come-as-you-are kind of place, where individualism is embraced. How many faith-based institutions can claim that?

That night, I volunteered at their soup kitchen (I'm an asshole, but helping clothe the homeless and working with volunteers at the Fringe felt a lot alike) and then went for Thai food with my hostess, who is an absolute delight and that dinner was probably a big part of why I'm feeling so positive about applying. These really are very down-to-Earth, rational people who have chosen the clergy as a profession; they have shades of gray. They have their own personal morals but the level of autonomy is really quite astounding.

The next day, I flew to Chicago to transfer to Winnipeg, so of course the flight was cancelled. Satan, thy name is United Airlines. I therefore had a 27-hour layover in Chicago, staying at the lovely and decrepit Wyndham O'Hare (the skid row of airport hotels) and was given one meal voucher valued at $15 during my stay, to be used all at once at one of the astronomically expensive airport eateries. Hellooooo, $9.35 pannini! That night, after much hemming und hawing, I took the train into the city to visit Boystown, the first nationally recognized Ghay Ghetto in the US. It was rainy and deserted. The highlight of my night was a spontaneous Spice Girls sing-a-long by the table next to me at one of the homo restos. It was cute, innocent and didn't involve anonymous sex or narcotics, so big ups. In all, the trip took 5 hours, less than 2 of which were spent actually doing anything. Still, better than sitting in a shiztastic hotel room all night.

The next day, I went to the airport, used $14.78 of my voucher at Quizno's and went home. I feel like I have not slept in 3 years.

Also, last night I ran into, or more accurately avoided running into, a former of mine at Starbucks. This is one of those painfully awkward situations wherein you both know that the other is there and yet you pretend not to notice. At one point, he passed me while on the way to throwing out his cup and did this weird, sound effect-aided jump and half-salute/half-shielding of his face (designed to be playful?). I couldn't help but think, Really? Is this what we're going now? It was 7 years ago. 7 years. For 3 weeks. Like, c'mon. This is Winnipeg, a city wherein you have heard of most everyone before you even start dating them. The pool is that small. The thing that kills me is that if we had met now, 7 years after the fact, we'd probably get along really well. I've had that line from Jesus Christ Superstar in my head all day: Can we start again, please? What an insipidly futile question. It's been done already, like overcooked meat that can never be remoistened. Wow. That was the single worst metaphor I've ever thought up. Still, it kinda makes sense. Ish. The point is, there's no real going back after you've written an angsty adolescent song about them, complete with ever-so-clever homonymical allusions to their name. There's no relationship mulligan, no green 'Back' button. Ooh, but imagine if there was! You could click the adjacent arrow and pick the exact spot you'd want to return to!...


Ok, maybe I am just as neurotic as I was at 17.


Michael Park said...

I'm glad to hear that the part of your trip involving the school seemed to have gone so well, and that you had a good first impression of the people in the program!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the full scoop (although I got alot in person). Holy shit...I was laughing like a crazy person by myself at 2:30am. United Airlines in the role of Satan= priceless.

You are my hero. Follow your heart! I am so glad you went.